She is her father’s look – alike. She has his aquiline nose, pouty lips and descending hairline. Her short stature and chocolate perplexion are the only features she took after her mother. She is a constant reminder of her father to the people who knew him. Her mother had told her that he died in a road accident when she was three, twenty years ago. As she grew older, she had pestered her mother to take her to his grave but her mother dismissed the idea. ‘It will bring more pain than relief,’ she said. Kristin never brought it up again. When she joined State House Girls, she carried his passport photo and pinned it on the inside of her locker. She would look at his grinning face every day and smile back at him. She believed he was watching over her from wherever he was.
During the school visiting days, her friends would buzz her ears with stories about their fathers. ‘My dad does not even know how to shop. He brought me Dettol Cool soap instead of Dettol Even tone,’ one would grumble. ‘Lucky you. My dad only brought a newspaper!’ another would chime. ‘Mine came late and left me just 200 bob,’ another would bewail. These stories would pierce Kristin’s heart. She would cry herself to sleep that night, wishing she had a dad, even if he would come late and empty-handed. Her mother had done her best to fill in Kristin’s father’s shoes but it was not the same.
Kristin wished she had a tall sweaty male figure to hug and take pictures with during visiting days, like her friends did. She wished she could call from school and hear a deep but loving voice on the other end, like her friends did. She wished she could get scolded for speaking to boys and be told that they were just after her body. She wished she could run home during closing day and proudly present her report card and claim her present. She wished she could have someone who would proudly introduce her as his daughter. She desired signing off her love – letters with a male surname instead of Wamuyu. Painfully, she kept these wishes to herself. She did not want to bother her mother with other demands as she (her mother) was already overwhelmed with raising her by herself.
Margaret Wamuyu worked two jobs to sustain her in school. She was a pharmacist at Kenyatta National Hospital. She had also started a clinic at the outskirts of the city. In the evenings, she would drop by the clinic to reconcile the books with her accountant. She would also spend her weekends at the clinic and would come home late, tired and sleepy. Due to her tight schedules, Margaret did not interact much with her daughter. She did not know when Kristin’s first period came. She had no idea who Kristin’s boyfriend was, or if she had any. She had no clue what Kristin wanted to be when she finished school. She was all about filling the gap Kristin’s father left by making sure her daughter never lacked.
This toughened Kristin up. She waded through puberty with no direction from anyone. She single-handedly taught herself how to wear pads and tampons by reading through the instructions at the back of the packs. For the better part of her high school life, she did not wear any brassier as she had no idea if she needed to. The first time she wore one, she had a hard time fitting her breasts in since it was the wrong size. She was heavily endowed for a sixteen-year-old. By the time she figured out she was a 75C, she had half a dozen brassiers that did not fit. She took herself through sex education by reading books on sex, love and marriage. She explored facts on the female body and what tickles it as well as what shuts it down. She understood the difference between male and female sexuality. The woman’s organ is stimulated emotionally by thoughts while the male organ is stimulated physically by vision and touch.
As a result of the self – tutoring, she became mentally mature compared to the boys and girls her age. While her friends were busy crushing on the hotties from Alliance Boys, she was busy admiring Idris Elba’s beard on Pulse magazine. During school functions, while her friends were absorbing the testosterone from the boys from visiting schools, she would borrow one of her teacher’s phones and log onto the internet. The search history was filled with words like Idris Elba wife. Idris Elba children. Idris Elba new movie. It was not a surprise that she joined University without having ever had a boyfriend.
In May of 2012, she enrolled at Daystar University to study Mass Communication. She wanted to be a News Anchor. Campus life gave her the opportunity to explore her sexuality. Surprisingly, none of her three relationships lasted more than three months. After a few weeks of dating, she would lose interest completely. She yearned for something different. She did not know what it was but she definitely knew what it was not. She had dated a fellow classmate. No that was not it. They broke up after three weeks. She then dated some fourth-year guy from a different University. Still wasn’t it. She had hooked up with a childhood friend who worked as a chef at a five – star hotel in the city. Still, she did not feel the vibe. She even hooked up with a lady, thinking that men were the problem. That was worse.
After completing her second year of study, she enrolled for her internship at a leading media house in the city. Bob, her line manager, was a senile man, probably in his late – forties. He was tall and well – built. His light face had a few wrinkles on his forehead and a well-trimmed moustache. He exuded a mastery of content on all matters journalism and he was well – respected around the office. He wore a pair of Burberry frameless reading glasses which had formed a furrow on his temples. He was stylish: iPhone 8, Mercedes Benz S Class, Golden Rolex watch, Hugo Boss suits and Georgio Armani shoes. He matched his tie, shoes and belt every single day. He also smelt very nice.
The first time Kristin met Bob, she did not think much of him. The ambrosial smell of his cologne was left on her palm after they shook hands but that was it. She lifted her hand to take a whiff of it when she went to the washroom before she washed it off. Her job was challenging and exciting at the same time. Her fellow interns and other young men asked her out but she took no interest in them. She would get to the office, do her job and go home. As her responsibilities increased, she would find herself constantly interacting with Bob. If it was not the Monday morning briefing, it was Kristin needing Bob’s signature for her editorial, or Bob needing Kristin to paraphrase a story, or Kristin needing Bob to review her financials.
Bob would bring Kristin along to meetings within the office and took her with him to external meetings. ‘You learn by doing,’ he said. They spent more time together than they did away from each other. One fine afternoon, on a way to a meeting, Bob’s daughter called from school. They spoke for almost half an hour as Bob navigated through Uhuru Highway traffic.
‘That was my daughter,’ he states proudly.
‘She must be lucky to have you as her dad,’ Kristin responds.
‘I am the lucky one.’ Bob counters, ‘She chose to stay with me during the custody hearing,’.
‘Custody hearing? You’re divorced?’ Kristin digs.
‘Yes. Six months now.’ Bob responds.
‘How is that working out for you?’ Kristin is eager to know.
‘Well, it’s a huge change. I am trying to see some new people. One step at a time,’
‘I hope you meet someone. You deserve happiness,’
‘Actually, there’s someone I met a while back. I think it could lead to something,’
‘Oh. How did you meet?’
‘At a clinic. My daughter plays football and twisted her ankle a few weeks back. She attended to her,’
‘Oh. Great! How’s she like?’
‘She’s a little shy. She does not talk much. Very kind. Oh, and she shares my daughter’s name,’
‘What a coincidence! Maybe that’s a sign,’
Bob chuckles, ‘We’ll see.’
There is a brief silence before Bob adds, ‘What’s your story? What does your father do?’
‘My father… My father passed away when I was three,’ Kristin responds.
‘Oh My! I’m so sorry. Forget I asked that,’ Bob guiltily admits.
They drive on in silence for a couple of minutes before Bob pulls over on the side of the road and switches off the engine. He has noticed the change of demeanour on Kristin’s face. She breaks down and buries her face in her hands. Bob offers her his handkerchief. She sobs incoherently for a while before lifting her face, shame-faced. Bob unbuckles his seat belt and stretches his arms. Kristin throws herself into his arms and buries herself into his muscular thorax. She snivels gently, tears dripping down his shirt. Bob cancels his meeting and takes Kristin out for lunch. Over a platter of pork chops and fries, Kristin narrates her experience growing up without a father. She tells Bob about her friends at State House Girls. She relives the Visiting Day moments. She brings up her wishes as a young adolescent girl. She briefly mentions her mum and how she strains to put her through school by herself. She lets it all out.
Bob listens to every single word Kristin speaks. He stares deeply into her eyes and nods in understanding every time she pauses. Kristin realises that she has never, in her whole life, told anyone else as much as she has shared with the man across from her. Kristin has never felt this way before. She feels safe. She feels naked, yet not ashamed. She does not want this meal to end. She opens her purse and pulls out the old crumbled photo of her father and places it on the table. Her father’s wide smile meets with that of Bob, sly and reserved. Handsome chap, Bob thinks. Maybe we could have been great friends, his mind wanders. His thoughts are interrupted by the waitress as she places the bill next to Kristin’s father’s picture.
‘You can take the day off if you need to,’ Bob says as he tips the waitress.
‘No need. I’ll be fine,’ Kristin says.
‘Alright. I could use some company,’ Kristin responds.
They drive off to Bob’s place. There is nobody home. The house is too clean and well – organised for a single middle-aged man’s place. Bob serves them some white wine. He shows Kristin his old photos. Kristin is mesmerised at how skinny he was back in the day. Bob tells Kristin stories of his ex-wife. He is careful not to mention his daughter because he notices how adversely it affects Kristin. It’s like she’s jealous. Women. You can’t fully understand them, can you? Before they know it, the sun is setting and the clouds are breaking. A heavy downpour engulfs the city. Bob plays a movie and they sit on the couch next to the fireplace. When Kristin opens her eyes an hour later, she is lying on Bob’s chest, his right arm around her upper torso.
‘Oh. I am sorry,’ she says as she wipes the drools of saliva from her mouth.
‘No worries. It was a boring movie anyway,’ Bob justifies her falling asleep.
‘I should probably get going,’
‘Let me get my coat. I’ll drop you home,’
That night, Kristin could not stop grinning. Finally, she has figured out what her heart wants. It now makes sense why it never worked out with her campus boyfriends. She has always yearned for an older man. She has always yearned for someone who would substitute her father. She has always yearned for Bob. But Bob is twice her age. And he is seeing someone else. Lucky woman, Kristin thinks. She remembers how he had described her. ‘She’s a little shy. She does not talk much. Very kind. Oh, and she shares my daughter’s name,‘. She recalls where Bob said he met her. ‘At a clinic. My daughter twisted her ankle and she attended to her,’. Oh My God! Why does this sound like someone she knows?
She grabs her phone and drops Bob a text.
‘Hey, just out of curiosity, what’s your daughter’s name?’
Bob does not respond until about twenty minutes later.
‘Maggie. Why do you ask?’
Kristin was not sure whether to be sad that the man she was falling for was twice her age or to be happy that her mother was finally getting the happiness she deserved, with the man she was falling for.